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Financial Services, General

Bonuses, Repossessions and the Credit crisis: In defence of the prudent banker

Are some not alone in an impossible maze?

If you follow this blog, you will see that I seldom take sides. Such, is the true nature of impartial commentary (which sadly very few bother with nowadays) that it gives both sides an equal punt at casting their lots. In any case, if I vouch only for material that has my thumbs up,  but deny views I don’t necessarily agree with, how relevant does that make this blog, besides making me an obvious bigot?

It is with this line of thought that I approach the present topic. Especially since the words ‘Prudent Banker‘ may sound to some like an oxymoron ( in the same category as  “honest estate agent”, or “cheap lawyer”); never (under any circumstances) to feature in the same sentence without an  inference of extreme disapproval towards the banking fraternity.

So before I begin, I’ll come clean and declare that I detest certain bankers. Not them that make us wait in queues, at the local branch in retail banking. No, not them, but the guys who we are told were in fact largely responsible for the crisis the world economy finds itself in.

Almost everyone I know dislikes them. The media has been caustic towards them; After all, quite a large number of bankers own Ferraris, or other expensive sports cars, whereas most of us don’t. They earn bonuses far larger than most of our salaries. They refuse us loans, when they hold funds to assist families and small businesses alike in times of hardship; They refuse us loans when they’ve never had a want for a loan. Why shouldn’t anybody dislike them?

In fact if we were to make comparisons, these guys would probably be as unpopular as Tax Collectors were in Roman times: Profiteering, menacing , treacherous and deserving only of scorn. I don’t even hate the bailiff that was sent to harass me that much…

But come to think of it, besides being extremely irresponsible when taking huge risks, bankers are not entirely to blame for the mess in the economy, let alone awarding themselves bonuses. Depending on your definition of “bankers” they couldn’t possibly be solely to blame.

In an investment bank(including others who don’t fit this category but were nevertheless part of the chain of debt/irresponsible risk),  who generally makes the actual decision on the awarding of a bonus, or salary? (i.e. Who is the person, or group of people to whom the authority of signing off the financial lists by which measure and framework monetary compensation is to be made, rests?)

That’s probably where a sizeable part of the blame ought to be directed. So, if it is the CFO who makes that decision, the Payroll Manager or the Chief Human Resources officer, that’s your weasel right there, and precisely the lot that must be admonished sharply. After all, they rewarded risky behaviour, and therefore contributed to this mess. Had they been more discerning, and wise; Had they withheld reward from some of the risk takers, maybe some bankers would have been more cautious, and the situation wouldn’t have been as severe as it currently is?

Watching The Big Questions the other Sunday, its no wonder some think bankers must be given a tour of the real world, since most of them have never experienced any real difficulty in their entire lives, if their middle class backgrounds are anything to go by. None of them know what it really means to lose your home, and all your belongings. Hardship to them is something they witness on TV, or read in the papers or magazines, or a man carrying copies of the big issue. Hardship is largely a nuisance best avoided, and that is perpetrated by dodgy organisations that are no better. The kind that pay themselves handsomely in ‘administration fees’ from donations.

But wouldn’t it be fun to watch a TV series of a bunch of chubby bankers and their paymasters (whom we can safely assume are used to doing all the clean jobs) in an attempt to show some responsibility, were flown off in economy  shipped, to the real world, for a month or two, to the slums of Lagos; to Mumbai; to Kingston Jamaica, or Dar es Salaam, and compelled made to “volunteer” on some poverty reduction scheme, amongst people who live on less than a dollar a day? Somewhere like this:-

No 5, 4 or even 3 star hotels to return to. Just plain grafting, for a whole month.

Surely, after such a trip, almost every normal human being is bound to gain some sort of perspective that one would believe will help them consider the less fortunate in an entirely different light. Even if they will not admit it publicly.

But of course people are different, so if it doesn’t aid in humanising them, and they continue in their wayward ways all of us cry foul against,  they probably shouldn’t be working in those jobs in the first place.




  1. Pingback: Its a lot easier to criticize than to walk in someone else’s shoes « Gnstr's blog - June 22, 2012

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